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If we do not sell our laws Sky City will gather all its toys and go home

Written By: - Date published: 5:07 pm, July 11th, 2013 - 65 comments
Categories: Economy, john key - Tags:


This is incredibly stupid PR of a quality we have not seen for a while.  Sky City has threatened to pack up all its toys and go home if the pokie machines and human misery bill, also known by its subtitle of “a bill to sell New Zealand law in exchange for a large amount of cash”, is not passed.

Stuff is reporting:

SkyCity has delivered a last minute warning to MPs voting this afternoon on the new National Convention Centre proposal that defeat will see the company send hundreds of millions of investment dollars offshore instead.

Nigel Morrison, SkyCity Entertainment managing director, said the $402 million earmarked for the long-delayed proposal would be committed elsewhere if Parliament voted against the deal.

Morrison has earlier said SkyCity would have to consider its options in the event of a no vote but was today explicit in stating building or upgrading facilities in Australia, or further afield, were the alternatives.

“We’d like to focus on Auckland with the National Convention Centre. If the NCC doesn’t get approval, then I think we would certainly look at other things out there and on our plate – be it on the Gold Coast, be it in Brisbane, be it in Darwin, be in in the Philippines or be it something else,” he said.

No doubt the jurisdiction that offers the greatest weakening of legal protection against the effects of gambling will be favoured.  And the arrogance of pressuring Members of Parliament while debating the bill shows a great deal of contempt for the Parliamentary process.

Morrison said the bitter and long-contested process culminating in the Government and SkyCity signing a deal on July 8 had made the casino a “political football” subject to savage attacks.

“It’s been quite horrific, quite frankly,” Morrison said of some opposition to the deal.

So standing up for the rule of law and trying to prevent the scourge of pokie machines being increased is considered to be horrific?

Meanwhile Major Campbell Roberts of the Salvation Army says it the way it is.

The harm minimisation measures allowed for in this legislation are a joke. They are neither robust nor effective.

They do not represent any significant improvement on the rather ineffective current practices of Sky City Casino, that are already failing to significantly reduce gambling harm.”

He notes that a Ministry of Health survey last year reported that nearly a quarter of people gambling on gaming machines were likely to be problem gamblers or would probably develop a gambling addiction to be in the future.

“There is a sad irony that while politicians profess to care about child poverty, a significant contributor to the problem – problem gambling – is being ignored in the haste to acquire a convention centre for Auckland.”

HT framu

65 comments on “If we do not sell our laws Sky City will gather all its toys and go home”

  1. Ad 1

    I fully get the corrosive effects of the gambling industry. But I have a couple of questions that I can’t figure out.

    Firstly, are the benefits worth the damage? The convention centre, fully constructed, revives a really ugly block of Auckland on the north side of Hobson Street, links both sides of the sterile 1-way Hobson Street with a massive air bridge, and will enable significant underground shopping by fully integrating with the Aotea Station of the City Rail Link.

    The only developers of comparable scale across Auckland is the University of Auckland, and the Council’s Waterfront company. Todd and Fletchers are suburban developers. So Auckland is getting serious urban renewal – aided by Council’s shared space rebuild of Federal Street.

    Secondly, is it better to have more pokies in a concentrated area at Sky City than in Auckland’s poorer suburbs? Arguably, having one listed corporate monopsony regulated and held to sustained scrutiny over many years is more effective than the seedy unregulated morass of pokie machines in slummy clubs across the poorest parts of Auckland run by often dodgy operators.

    Also with the greatest of respect to the hardworking Major Campbell Roberts, why should Sky City be held to a higher moral order of amelioration than any other operator on a per machine basis? I only agree with his point if it’s simply levelled at every major operator.

    If I were am MP I would definitely evaluate that the sacrifice and commodification of parliamentaryprocess is not worth the deal’s benefits in the long run. ie morally wrong.

    But I’m not. So getting that much of a redevelopment shove for Auckland, its transport system, its tourism infrastructure for no direct taxpayer cash looks attractive.

    • felix 1.1

      “Arguably, having one listed corporate monopsony regulated and held to sustained scrutiny over many years is more effective than the seedy unregulated morass of pokie machines in slummy clubs across the poorest parts of Auckland run by often dodgy operators.”

      Bit of a false dichotomy there Ad, you’ve framed it as is we must choose one or the other.

      But right now we have both.

      And we could equally choose to have neither.

      • Ad 1.1.1

        You are proposing doing away with gambling altogether?

        • Phil

          See 3.1.1 below.

          • Ad

            On principle I am personally against pokies anywhere so I agree with your distinction.

            • Phil

              Not about principle, if you agree with Pokies or not. Pokies are simply not a form of gambling so why have them as a mainstay of casinos? Take out the pokies and casinos become a gambling venue, leave them in and casinos are at best a con, at worst a fraud.

        • felix

          Ad, I’d have no problem with getting rid of pokie machines altogether.

  2. What about the MAMMOTH elephant in the room – that so few are bothering to mention?

    The increased risk of money-laundering with the Sky City Convention deal?



    ‘Open Letter/ OIA ‘ request to OFCANZ re: the increased risk of money-laundering associated with the NZ International Convention Centre Bill 2013.



    Financial Crime Group | Organised & Financial Crime Agency New Zealand

    Police National Headquarters

    ‘Open Letter/ OIA ‘ request to OFCANZ re: the increased risk of money-laundering associated with the NZ International Convention Centre Bill 2013.

    Dear …………….,

    Can you please forward this ‘Open Letter / OIA request’ to whoever from OFCANZ is responsible for handling such requests.

    BACKGROUND: ( re: Potential risk of money laundering )

    Click to access NZICC-RIS-June-2013.pdf

    New Zealand International Convention Centre Bill 2013

    Regulatory Impact Statement

    New Zealand International Convention Centre

    ” Potential risk of money laundering

    95 Cash intensive industries such as casinos are attractive to money laundering activity.
    New Zealand’s National Risk Assessment 2010 assessed casinos as presenting moderate to high risk of money laundering.

    For this reason, casinos (including all SkyCity casinos) are subject to the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Act 2009 (the AML/CFT Act), which comes into force on 30 June 2013.

    96 Nothing in the Agreement affects SkyCity’s obligations under the AML/CFT Act.
    Those obligations include:

    a. developing a risk assessment of the money laundering and terrorism financing risks facing SkyCity

    b. appointing an AML/CFT compliance officer

    c. designing and implementing an AML/CFT programme, which must include:

    i. vetting senior managers and staff engaged in AML/CFT related duties

    ii. training senior managers and relevant staff on AML/CFT related matters

    iii. complying with customer due diligence (CDD) requirements, including
    determining when enhanced CDD is required, when simplified CDD might be permitted,
    and when CDD can be carried out by a person other than the reporting entity

    iv. reporting suspicious transactions

    v. monitoring and record keeping, especially in relation to specified high-risk transactions and
    business relationships

    vi. policies and procedures for how SkyCity will manage and mitigate its risks of money
    laundering and financing of terrorism

    vii. monitoring and managing compliance with the AML/CFT programme.

    97 However, there are aspects of the regulatory concessions that potentially raise the risk of money laundering through SkyCity.

    98 For example, the anonymity that can be associated with TITO technology has the potential to facilitate money laundering, by increasing the potential for currency refining and ticket structuring.

    In effect, this means that low denomination notes could be fed into one or more gaming machines or kiosks and then be redeemed by ticket into high denomination notes or casino cheques.

    Increasing the use of TITO technology (and raising the denominations that can be fed into a machine) may therefore increase the potential for money laundering.

    99 Increased use of “white cards” may also lead to increased risk of money laundering.

    White cards are an account-based system with a unique identifier that permits transaction sequences to be tracked. However, the form of identification information associated with each card will depend on the “business relationship” between the casino and the white card holder(s).

    100 The limits on anonymous cashing-out of TITO and white cards described in paragraphs 69-71 of this paper are aimed at mitigating this potentially higher risk of money laundering. …”

    I note the role of OFCANZ, as stated on your website:


    OFCANZ will combat organised crime through:

    Leading, coordinating or contributing to policy or legislative changes to make it harder for organised criminals to operate. There will be opportunities to do so by, for example, making it harder to launder money, or obtain false identities, or by increasing information sharing.

    Under the OIA – can OFCANZ please provide the following information:

    (1) Copies of all/any Information OFCANZ has provided for the NZ International Convention Centre Bill / or any related Regulatory Impact Report or Statement/ Cabinet re: the increased risk of money-laundering

    2) Information which confimrs that the views of OFCANZ on the increased risk of money-laundering were sought by any of the following parties:

    a) Department of Internal Affairs
    b) Ministry of Economic Development
    c) Sky City
    d) The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
    e) The Office of the Prime Minister
    f) Cabinet
    g) Any Cabinet Minister (in particular Steven Joyce)

    3) I am also interested in any information held by OFCANZ on how TITO (Tickets In Tickets Out) can be used for money-laundering at casinos.

    I would prefer this information to be provided electronically?

    4) All/any information held by OFCANZ which raises concerns about the potential increase in ‘organised crime’ as a result of potentially increased money-laundering opportunities through the proposed NZ International Convention Centre Bill.

    Kind regards,

    Penny Bright

    ‘Anti-corruption / anti-privatisation’ campaigner
    Attendee: Australian Public Sector Anti-Corruption Conference 2009
    Attendee: Transparency International Anti-Corruption Conference 2010

    2013 Auckland Mayoral candidate

    • Ad 2.1

      Same argument applies to you Penny; if all the projected harm is more concentrated and located, it is far easier to police and regulate. So concentrating so much at Sky City is actually better for legal control, not worse.

  3. Phil 3

    Some decent points.
    Point 1. Hobson street was made sterile by the Sky City buildings, it was not always so.
    All other points. Pokies are not, repeat NOT a form of gambling. They are pay per user entertainment. The GTA (Gaming Technologies Association) the major regulatory body for pokies, freely admits this, although this information is somewhat buried and you need to know where to look it is freely available;
    From the GTA Player Information Booklet;
    “Gaming machines are designed a recreational amusement devices on which people
    can spend money”.
    “In practical terms, however, players can only ‘get ahead’ of a machine on a short term
    basis at best. Many players will experience sessions of play when prizes won exceed
    the amount spent. In the long term, however, in all but the most unusual and
    extraordinary circumstances,this outcome is virtually impossible”.
    And from the Responsible Gaming Machine Play booklet, also produced by GTA;
    “Therefore you should EXPECT to lose money in the long run, as you
    cannot use any form of skill to beat the machine”.
    Take these fake gamble (like) machines out of casinos, they have no place in a gambling facility.
    Peter Dunne, you should be proud of yourself tonight, shame on you.

    • McFlock 3.1

      the house always wins in the long term, just like with blackjack, roulette and every other casino game. The house always wins, because if it doesn’t it goes under.

      • Phil 3.1.1

        Not so simple.
        A skilled gambler can often beat the house, skill is not a factor in the case of Pokies.
        Again, and this is a very important point
        “Gaming machines are designed as recreational amusement devices on which people
        can spend money”.
        Pokies are not gambling, they are a “recreational amusement device”.
        They have no place in casinos.

        • McFlock

          Poker with individuals, maybe.

          But blackjack is designed to prevent card counting as much as possible (number of decks, frequency of shuffles). Simply hit or pass based on a gut feeling that’s irrational – in the same way that pokies require the same basic “hit/hold/pass” inputs.

          Where is the source of “recreational amusement”? If it’s not the chance of an occasional payout, then why not just have machines with coloured lights? I think SC might have issues with a rule along those lines, though…

          • Phil

            It’s not too difficult to win at Blackjack “over time”, Skilled blackjack players never rely on gut instinct, they simply have an “acceptable loss average”. This is not possible with Pokies. However, when the regulatory body of the Pokie machine business makes such statements as “they are just video games on which you can spend money” it takes the Pokie gambling myth back into the realms of reality. Pokies are to gambling what WWA or whatever it’s called, yknow, wrestling, is to sport. It was re branded as Sportstertainment and Pokies are just that, Gambeltertainment.

            • McFlock

              So if a player or group of players discovered a long-term success strategy for blackjack, the casino wouldn’t adapt their rules to negate the strategy’s advantage, or simply blacklist the player(s)?

              The casino sets up the rules to give itself the long-term advantage.

              • Phil

                One of the “rules” of state regulated gambling is that it’s fair, it’s straight. The edge is governed by either numbers (the majority of players are marks in that they are casuals, at best semi skilled) or skill. Everyone playing the Pokies is a mark. The pokies are in no way fair or even straight. I could get in to Loaded Reels etc….
                Would anyone with any knowledge of the mechanism expect to win at 3 card monty? When people play pokies that’s the sort of “gambling” they are involved in.

                • McFlock

                  The distinction still seems a bit subtle for my taste.

                  I can see that pokies are the KFC double-down of the gambling world, but basically roulette and other casino games are still set up to the casino’s advantage while giving punters an unrealistic expectation of coming out ahead.

                  • Phil

                    Yes, the distinction is subtle or more to the point hegemonic. We have been somewhat conditioned to believe that state regulated gambling is straight, we expect that if a card game is played then there will be 52 cards per deck, 4 suits with 13 cards ( plus 2 acceptable jokers, and 2 more less welcome jokers in some countries). This is NOT the case with pokies.
                    While there is an accord and in NZ a law that states that the amount of stops (as if the video terminal was a physical reel) is uniform, ie, 10, 20, 50 per reel, there is no regulation on how many symbols (or cards) should be present on each reel.
                    Are you seeing the con yet?
                    I can manufacture a pokie that gives you 2 kings on every first 2 lines and a jack on every 3 rd line, looks like a near miss (about which the psychology is very clear) but in actual fact there are fewer kings on the 3rd reel and no jacks on the first 2 reels.
                    No other form of state regulated gambling allows for this kind of con.

        • Winston Smith

          Actually the american mensa society put out a book on gambling and it is possible, using quite a complicated system I admit, to win (over time of course) on video poker

  4. toad 4

    Ah, so SkyCity has learned from Rio Tinto and Warner Brothers. Play the divestment card and the Nats will capitulate and give them whatever they want.

    • Draco T Bastard 4.1

      Yep and it’s a line of BS that the governments of NZ have been buying for the last 30 years.

      • Tim 4.1.1

        …. so maybe time for the Greens to hold the balance of power, and offer Sky City directors one way airfares out of the country.
        Reminds me of Gattung? trying to threaten a previous government.

  5. felix 5

    A govt with any guts would let them go.

    They suck squillions out of our economy that could be so much better used, amd they add nothing to our way of life.

    Nothing whatsoever.

  6. gobsmacked 6

    Sky City aren’t stupid. They know their target audience – the current opposition, and potential next government.

    They can bluff, and Labour won’t call it (though the Greens would).

    All Labour have to do is say (before the law passes later this year) …

    “This deal will be gone. Scrapped, in full. 35 years – gone. Extra pokies – gone. If Sky City want to start building, that’s their choice. But nothing this government does will bind us in 2014.”

    But Sky City are like the rest of the Right’s movers and shakers, they know all too well who they are dealing with. They know Labour will roll over and back the convention centre once it’s begun, with only cosmetic changes. (If anybody doubts this, please point out any commitment that Labour leaders have made. There has been nothing).

    The heartless beat the spineless.

    • Ad 6.1

      The catch however is that not only the gambling goes. So too does the hotel, the restaurants, the whole of Federal Street, and of course the convention centre. Kind of like Tiwai Point: all very well to hate on it, but pretty damn cold to let them walk, do untold damage, and do nothing.

      • gobsmacked 6.1.1

        But the casino won’t walk.

        If the incoming gov’t say where they stand, full disclosure etc, then there is no legal recourse. So in the end it’s just about money. Sky City understand the “bottom line”, they won’t be going anywhere.

        • Ad

          You’d be surprised how addicted corporates get to state support. And reverse. Key has been extended a line of credit. As Tiwai shows, it gets impossible to imagine the region surviving without it.

          • Draco T Bastard

            Region would do fine without it. In fact, we’d probably be better off.

      • felix 6.1.2

        “The catch however is that not only the gambling goes. So too does the hotel, the restaurants, the whole of Federal Street, and of course the convention centre.”

        Sky City doesn’t provide any of those for free. If there’s a market to support those services then other people will provide them. If there’s not then they were never required.

  7. BM 7

    This is the sort of issue that kills the left.

    One thing I have noticed these days is the emphasis that people are putting on personal responsibility, the public expect people to act responsibly, they shouldn’t be punished for the weakness and irresponsibly of others.

    Most if not all people have no problem with gambling so they look at the Sky city casino deal and all they see is good stuff, more jobs, growth etc.

    Then you’ve got labour trying to kill what the majority sees as a good deal just because a very very tiny group of individuals lack self control.

    Intensely annoying for the majority of voters, learn from that or forever dwell on the opposition benches, lefties.

    • gobsmacked 7.1

      “what the majority sees as a good deal”


      The polls have shown a majority opposed to the deal.

    • Phil 7.2

      BM, Dumb as, see 3.1.1

    • toad 7.3

      Most gambling games are an issue of personal responsibility.

      Pokies are not.

      In their graphics, their audio, and their programming re wins v losses, they are DESIGNED to addict. So it is no surprise that they do.

      They are the crystal meth of gambling.

      I don’t have a big problem with horse or dog racing, Lotto, sports betting, blackjack, roulette etc. I do have a problem with pokies, because, unlike other many forms of gambling, addiction is incorporated in their design.

      • Phil 7.3.1

        Very cool Mr or Mrs Toad.
        While I would not agree with your Crystalmeth analogy I do see where you come from.
        Not built into the design, it IS the design. BTW I have no evidence that programmed spins exist, only evidence of loaded reels, as the industry is so secretive I can not (yet) find out how the 87% or 90% return is achieved, and by the way, no government organisation can tell me when I ask. But the industry assures me that random spins are computed by RNG, Yeah Right!

    • Draco T Bastard 7.4

      Then you’ve got labour trying to kill what the majority sees as a good deal…

      Last time I looked at the polls, which I kindly linked for you ATT, the majority thought it was a dirty deal that would harm NZ.

    • Rogue Trooper 7.5

      4700 individuals to be harmfully affected directly and personally by the addictive allure of the machines.
      3600 individuals to be harmfully affected directly and personally by the additional gaming tables.

      Over 8000 extra problem gamblers and additional money-laundering. All referred to in the regulatory impact statement suppressed by Tremain et al; as “commercially sensitive”.

      “The (SC) Bill is inconsistent with the fundamental principle of equality before the law”.-Q11: Q.T.9.7

      with Nats evading the issue of whether similar gambling concessions will be horse-traded in Christchurch and Queenstown.

  8. vto 8

    calling the bluff
    exhilirating and tough
    gambling and sin
    always in the bin

  9. When did extortion from a corporate become acceptable?!?!

    Screw this.

    They’re not even an essential service or industry!

    @ BM – do you mean to tell us that you’re ok with this shit???


    They can piss off for all I care.

    • BM 9.1

      Yep, I think it’s great.

      • Draco T Bastard 9.1.1

        Of course you do, your leaders told you it was and you take everything they say as gospel despite what the facts of the matter say.

  10. marsman 10

    In the Sky City debate in the House today Steven Joyce, Minister for Corporate Welfare called the Convention Centre proof that they are delivering on their promise to provide jobs and and increase economic growth!?!?!?

  11. Appleboy 11

    BM – so you think the best way to build a convention centre is to let a Casino build it in exchange for a law change that will deliver the Casino more profits than the $400M they put up to build it. What a totally banana republic way to get infrastructure built. What a creepy existence the right whingers live in – fuck everybody cause I’m all right jack. Why not fuck off to America, that attitude has gone a long way to ruining that country.

    • Drakula 11.1

      Well said Apple I just see the $400 million as a monstrous bribe/blackmail they are saying “if you don’t pass the bill we will go elsewhere” I say great! fuck off ! call their bluff! GOOD RIDDANCE !

      • One Anonymous Knucklehead 11.1.1

        I say “Mr. Sky City, you are under arrest for using coercive threats against an elected government. You have the right to remain silent…”

  12. Tigger 12

    “It’s been quite horrific, quite frankly,” Morrison said of some opposition to the deal.

    Oh poor baby. Were some people mean to your poor corporation? Here let’s make it better with some law changes that enable you to milk more money off gambling addicts. All better now?

  13. Chris 13

    Frankly if the Casino up and leaves if they don’t get their way would not be a bad thing. No more gambling issues created and an empty building to turn into a Conference Centre.

  14. georgecom 14

    If Mr Morrison was so worried about the way the issue had played, politically, he should then have made damned sure he minimised the risk of it turning political. One way would have been to insist on a absolute proper and impartial process. Instead, he helped make it a business trade off done behind closed doors. Good processes go some way toward neutralising the ability for people to stir up opposition. Shonky processes open the doors to allegation and political questioning.

    Looks to me like Morrison reaped a bit of what he sowed.

  15. Ken Noes Aye 15

    We have actually seen such inept PR in the not too distant past. By Labour under Phil Goff. Engineered by his chief press secretary turned chief of staff Gordon Jon Thompson, who now heads SkyCity’s PR. Who do you think invited the old guard into the corporate box? And they still think Thompson is their mate.

  16. AmaKiwi 16

    Sky threatened to expand their facilities elsewhere?

    That’s as tragic as my neighborhood meth dealer threatening to move his operation Australia.

  17. JonL 17

    Labour are a gutless bunch of neo-libs who, if, by some miracle they got into power, would do squat about anything the Nats have done – led by a bumbling puppet who couldn’t make up his mind about having a crap!

    Sky city would pack up it’s toys and fuck off?
    Good riddance!

  18. Wayne (a different one) 18

    Oh! I don’t know – some Labour MP’s, Gareth Hughe’s Land Lady, Goofy, Far Forgot (Fafoi) and Motor Mouth Clayton would miss the troughing at Sky City’s expense.

    Credibility? dont think so.

    I hope these four cross the floor and vote in support of the bill!

    If they don’t, they are total hypocrites.

    • McFlock 18.1

      Nah – there’s always the Francis Bacon defence. Just because someone unilaterally decides to give a gift does not require reciprocation in an official capacity.

      Unless you’re suggesting that SC thought votes could be bought for the price of seats in a corporate box, and were expecting reciprocation. I’d think twice before suggesting such a thing if I were you, because I believe that offering such a transaction (even if declined) is a crime. It would be a bit odd for you to defame skycity just to score implied points against labour.

      • Rogue Trooper 18.1.1

        this Bacon ?

        • McFlock

          No, this one:

          While acknowledging that his conduct had been lax, he countered that he had never allowed gifts to influence his judgement and, indeed, he had on occasion given a verdict against those who had paid him.


      • Wayne (a different one) 18.1.2

        I wasn’t imply anything of a sort.

        Quite the contrary, I find it rather amusing that certain Labour politicians who are vehemently opposed to the “dirty deal” done by Sky City – are more than happy to accept their hospitality.

        I find it quite amusing how the left attempt to obscure such actions by twisting the circumstances.

        • McFlock

          It’s not hypocritical to oppose a particular deal (or even profession) yet still be open-minded enough to acknowledge that the entity itself is a significant part of the economic, business, political and social community.

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  • New District Court Judge appointed
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  • $206 million investment in upgrades at Ohakea Air Force Base
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  • New Board appointed at Stats NZ
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  • New Principal Environment Judge
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